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College Admissions 2021 Was Strange – Five Pointers to Find Your Way In the 2022 Admissions Cycle

“Life is so strange when you don't know

How can you tell where you're going to

You can't be sure of any situation

Something could change and then you won't know…”

Missing Persons, Destination Unknown, 1982

I am certain that the 1980s band Missing Persons was not talking about college admissions; however, their simple lyrics to Destination Unknown could have easily described this year’s college admissions cycle. As seniors share their unexpected acceptances along with their surprising and heartbreaking denials, juniors and their parents are probably wondering “now what?”.

Now that the University of California system has publicly stated it will remain test blind for the 2022 admission cycle, joining the California State University system’s announcement in January 2021 that it too will remain test blind for the 2022 cycle, students should anticipate another record-breaking year of admission application submissions. Unless the UCs and CSUs increase their capacity to seat more freshman, admission rates will continue to be driven down. This shift occurred throughout the country among highly selective public and private schools.

So, how to plan? I recommend focusing on the basic tenents of the holistic application review. Here are five pointers to keep in mind as juniors draw closer to their college application cycle (opens August 1, 2021).

1. Grades and Academic Rigor

Colleges look at course rigor in the context of the high school itself. If a high school is seen as not as academically strong and offers few advanced courses, colleges will take that into consideration. On the other hand, however, if a high school is rated as academically strong and offers a plethora of advanced classes, colleges will expect students from those institutions to have taken a higher number of AP, IB, or honors classes. Highly selective colleges want students who have taken the most challenging courses available to them and excelled.

2. Demonstrated Interest

In my February 1 and February 5, 2021 blogs, I highlight ten ways students can demonstrate their interest in the colleges on their list. Showing genuine interest to colleges that track Demonstrated Interest (UCs and CSUs do not), is an important step not to be missed in the ever-increasing competitiveness of college admissions.

3. Zeal

Because the word passion is now overused in college admissions, I chose an synonym to describe a critical character trait admission officers are looking for in prospective students. Students who have been engaged in activities beyond the minimum requirements both inside and outside the classroom are the applicants that will interest admission officers at highly selective universities the most.

4. Public-spiritedness

Colleges are less impressed with community service hours if they are unfocused. Rather, colleges are looking for students who have demonstrated their zeal for helping their community through sustained and focused activities.

5. Authenticity

Authenticity is the quality of being genuine. Colleges aren’t impressed by a student trying to project an image of someone they are not in their application. Rather than trying to conform to what a student believes a college wants them to be, students should show colleges who they are as an individual and adhere to what they value.

Beth Wiser, executive director of undergraduate admission at The Ohio State University, explains that “colleges and universities aren’t necessarily looking for well-rounded students, but for students who will contribute to a university in authentic ways.” She adds, “some students are singularly focused and have incredible achievements in one or two areas. Other students are multi-passionate and pursue their interests in many fields. Both have a place in higher education.”

Now that college planning for juniors has kicked into high gear, it is imperative that students create comprehensive lists that span across college selectivity ranges.

Royal College Consulting guides its students through each step of the process so they can confidently “tell where they are going to.” (excerpt from Destination Unknown, Missing Persons, 1982)


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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